Kevin Zefi – The Irish Prodigy Attracting International Attention by Aaron Boland
Name: Kevin Zefi
Date of birth: 11/02/2005
Place of birth: Dublin, Ireland
Current international: Ireland u15
Pref. foot: Right
Position: Winger/Striker/Attacking Midfielder
Current club: Shamrock Rovers/Shamrock Rovers II
Previous club(s): St. Kevin’s Boys
Squad number: 75
Kevin Zefi is a name which won’t ring too many bells outside of Ireland. Even in Ireland, Zefi is a relatively unknown despite his impressive achievements at the young age of 15.
He began his youth career at St. Kevin’s Boys – as many talented Irish players do – before catching the attention of Shamrock Rovers which led to a move into the South Dublin based club’s academy.
His reputation has increased dramatically within the last year with impressive showings for Ireland u15s and Shamrock Rovers II, who currently play in Ireland’s 2nd tier.
Zefi might not be a household name amongst the general public just yet, but he has managed to attract the attention of some of Europe’s top clubs – namely PSV Eindhoven, Juventus and Inter Milan. Although nothing has materialised thus far, Inter Milan are reportedly hot on the trails of the teenager and they look the most likely to land his signature.
ACHIEVEMENTS TO DATE
As mentioned previously, Zefi has built up quite the CV at a young age. He made his senior debut this year on the 2nd of August at the age of just 15. Arguably, his most impressive achievement to date was becoming the youngest League of Ireland goalscorer of all time as he netted against Longford Town on the 4th September. He was 15 years and 216 days old at the time of the goal which meant he beat the previous record of 15 years and 359 days set by Stephen McGann. Zefi has made 9 appearances for Shamrock Rovers II in total, 7 of which were off the bench.
He’s also managed 11 goal contributions (6 goals, 5 assists) in 10 appearances for Ireland u15s. His most impressive performance coming against England u15s, where he managed to score twice and assist as Ireland comfortably dispatched of the English with a scoreline of 3-1.
He scored this goal against Poland which demonstrated his pace, strength, dribbling and finishing all in one.
Zefi is a versatile player who can play in several positions. He primarily operates off the left-hand side as an inside forward where he cuts in and gets shots off with consistency. He can also operate on the right-hand side as more of a traditional winger, often using his pace and trickery to evade defenders and float crosses into the box. As well as being able to play on both wings, he can also affect play as a 9 or 10.
Zefi regularly finds himself seeking space and playing between the lines as opposed to playing off the shoulder of defenders. He enjoys taking on defenders 1v1 or playing through defences to get in behind. He often draws opposition players towards him in order to create space for teammates and himself by evading advancing defenders. He’s always looking to play progressively and rarely goes sideways or backwards unless he’s in situations which require so. He regularly utilises half spaces in order to progress the ball, also.
Shamrock Rover’s style of play suits Zefi to the ground as they adopt a possession game where they opt to break opposition lines by playing into the feet and working the ball through spaces left by defenders as a result of good on the ball/off the ball
CONTROL IN TIGHT SPACES
He excels in tight spaces, using his exceptional close control, quick feet and agility to elude defenders and create space. This is one of the main strengths to his game, he’s capable of avoiding several defenders at once which in turn creates large open spaces to play into.
Zefi frequently cuts in from the left wing and shoots at will when he gets a sight of goal. He uses his dribbling ability and pace to work his way past the back four before opening fire from outside or inside the box. He also cuts behind and crosses on occasion, but he’s more effective when facing towards goal.
Zefi has exceptional dribbling for his age, his ability to go past defenders appears seamless at times. He uses a combination of his close control, pace, agility and trickery to clear opposition lines. He exudes confidence on the ball and isn’t afraid of attempting something out of the ordinary.
Zefi’s finishing capability is another one of his specialities. As mentioned before, Zefi often cuts inside and finishes with his right. He opts for finesse rather than power to compliment his impressive technique. He has displayed his finishing with regularity at underage level and has already made his mark at senior level with a masterfully placed finish against Longford town. His composure also works to his advantage as he rarely panics in front of goal.
– close control
– set pieces
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
– defensive output
– lack of senior experience
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
Given the uncertainty surrounding Zefi’s future, it’s hard to know where he’ll be this time next year. He’ll likely stick with Shamrock Rovers until the end of the current season.
In fact, he may be better off staying with Shamrock Rovers for the foreseeable future. Staying in Dublin would mean regular senior football at Shamrock Rover II and the chance to break into the Shamrock Rovers first team. He also has the opportunity of competing in Europe in a couple of years’ time as Rovers regularly participate in European competition. Realistically, there are more benefits to staying at Rovers for the time being. They have one of the best academies in Ireland at the minute which is essential for his development.
Alternatively, Zefi could move abroad to one of Europe’s elite. While this sounds ideal, many young players fail to adjust to the change of settings overseas. The pressure put on their shoulders from playing at a top club can be overwhelming for some players and the mental stress often results in stalled development and poor performances. Obviously, this is not always the case, but some young players handle being away from home differently than others.
As it stands, if Zefi is to move abroad, Inter Milan look the most likely suitors.
Regardless of what happens, it will be intriguing to see how Kevin Zefi’s career plays out in the coming years.